Strange phone number assignment for new cell phone--what are the odds?

My wife bought a new phone, and wanted to transfer her old number.

She put in the transfer request. She requested 123-456-7890.

A few days later, we looked at her new phone and saw it had been assigned 123-456-3851.

We called the company and said it looked like they had somehow accidentally given us the wrong last four digits. They replied by saying that in fact the transfer had not occurred–that this was the number originally assigned to the new phone, prior to any transfer requests.

To us this seems really surprising, for a few reasons.

We can’t say for sure that we’d seen a different number assigned before, but we think we did. But that’s not what makes it strange.

What’s strange is, 123-456-xxxx is the first six digits of her requested number, AND it’s in an area code different from the one we live in, AND it’s in an area code different from the one on our billing address, AND my own phone is with the same company using the same billing address AND my own phone was auto-assigned a number in our new area code, AND our new area code is many, many, many states away from our old area code (the one she’s requesting be transferred in).

What are the chances that her auto-assigned number would somehow share the first six digits with her old cell number (from a completely different cell company to be clear), given those circumstances?

Based on what you have told us it seems to be 100%.

Phone numbers are usually assigned in blocks of 10,000 numbers (the whole prefix block), but blocks of 1,000 numbers are available for an extra fee. I’m guessing it’s possible that the old company and the new company have both bought pieces of the same 10K block.

I’ve never had a number assigned to me that wasn’t based on my actual address. Is it pretty normal for people to have numbers assigned to them from outside their address’s area code?

‘123’ isn’t a valid NPA. Never has been, probably never will be. So…

  1. Your wife’s screwy for requesting it
  2. The phone company is even more screwy for giving it to you

This does seem like a good way to avoid phone calls from the wife, however.


No, all was not lost on me. I was simply saying if you’re going to make up numbers, at least make them up in the proper format. Whooosh on you sir.

The intention is to use an unusable “phone number” to denote the actual phone number. Same as the 555 thing in movies.

Another purpose is to make the post easier to understand by making it very clear what is repeated in the numbers and what is not.

So rather than conveniently using the conventional 555 exchange that you just mentioned, that was created for this exact purpose, you made up your own invalid area code instead. I gotcha. “321” would have been a technically valid NPA and just as cutesy.

As the anal-retentive pilot said in the Monty Python sketch, “It’s just as easy to get these things right the first time.”

It’s fairly common for people to have mobile phones that have area codes different from where they live.

You should have been able to port that number, I suspect someone mixed up something somewhere. What happens when you call 123-456-7890 (that will wooooosh some people I know but that is the number the OP stated and some of us get it)?

More importantly, if 123 isn’t really a valid area code, but you somehow managed to get it anyway, it must be a good way to avoid getting non-stop robo-calls.

I’m getting wooshed if that number’s a reference to something, but back in the day when area codes all had 0 or 1 as the middle digit (until the mid-90s or so), that would make a long-distance call to the person in your area code whose number was 234-5678. I was 2 years old during that time and called that number a whole bunch. Some man in Baileyton, Tenn. would answer and I’d just giggle and eventually hang up. (This lasted until my parents got their phone bill for the month and figured out what was up.)

Nowadays, nothing would happen until you dialed an 11th digit, which would try to call 234 567-890x, which would be someone in Salem, Ohio.


It is hard to get a cell phone number for an area code that is different from your billing address. It is easy to keep you same phone number when you move and change your billing address.

She couldn’t have 123-456-7890 because that’s my number.

You can call long distance with a ten digit number these days (no zero or one), however the first number of the area code (NPA) cannot be zero or one. Nor can the first number of the exchange (NXX) in a 7 digit phone number. As Kimble noted, if you dial a one or zero you would need 11 digits.

What the “classic” toll routing system would process internally is somewhat different from what it would allow random people on the outside to do. Although these days with many VoIP, etc. providers there isn’t as much that could be called classic toll routing.

All sorts of normally non-dialable numbers would be used for various internal functions - old-fashioned Inbound WATS (800 service) would often be delivered from exchanges with odd prefixes (like 038). That was back when 800 translations happened centrally (IIRC) in St. Louis.

Before the TWX network was separated in the early 80’s (610 was a holdout until the 90’s), you could actually dial the x10 area codes if you had a “dumb” electromechanical exchange that allowed it. Even #5 crossbar (still electromechanical) wouldn’t route it, though if you dialed it as an operator assisted call (and convinced the operator that it was a real number) it would go through, as operator positions were not limited that way. You’d end up with the operator back on the line after a few minutes, as the call wouldn’t release and free up the operator position.

A lot of that stuff was converted to normal numbers after divestiture - things like “Call 201-332 Official 38” on various phone company documents got converted to regular numbers like 201-332-9938. 800 service turned into generic call forwarding to regular dialable numbers. And most of the “reserved” prefixes were opened up to regular service - the 55x-nnnn test board exchanges (except for 555) became available in the 90’s. Somewhere along the line the restrictions on prefixes were lifted, and New Jersey got the numerically-lowest number in the NANPA - 201-200-0000. The “shortest dial pull” number is somewhere in NYC - 212-something-something.

While all of that is “old time” to some extent, I still have Verizon circuits with “phone numbers” (mostly for billing purposes) that are undialable - things like 212-4N7-5678. And that’s a real “N”, not the “MNO on the 6 key”.

The most under-utilized area code is 710. It only has one assigned number (which you should not call).

Still doesn’t get it :smack:

There is nothing to care about here.